Better Late Than Never
Right, I’ll put it out there straight away; it’s crazy late to be writing a blog about The Chelsea Flower Show! It’s been over 3 weeks since I attended. However, between cultivating client projects and firefighting domestic dramas and wedding attendances, so so many weddings…. I’ve not had a whole lot of time to get my blog done.
In truth there is so much up to date TV and news coverage of The Chelsea Flower Show, doing a review type blog is a bit pointless, so I’d already decided before I went to take a different tack.
and REPETITIVE Themes & TRENDS
I’ve been to The Chelsea Flower Show at least 6 times in the last 15 years and what always strikes me, every single time, is the number of repetitive themes and/or plants that will crop up in the different Show Gardens.
In 2016, it was the blue Himalayan poppy, last year they were all loopy for lupins and this year it’s weeds (native planting to give it it’s more academic term). Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris loomed large in all its forms from the stylish purple ‘Ravenswing’ to the common hedge row variety. There was also a profusion of other umbelliferous flowering plants; Ammi majus, Orlaya grandiflora and Daucus carota. All looking cow parsley-ish to the layman. The weed theme continued with ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), Plaintain (Plantago lanceolata) which garnered a few comments from the crowd. Plus, more commonly used and domesticated natives; like foxgloves and ferns. Even the warmer climate gardens had an abundance of holiday weeds; native Mediterranean natives like fennel, Achillea millefolium, Santolina and various Stipa.
Many of the gardens were trying to create a naturalistic environment, so native plants did make sense in their selection. However, what always makes me wonder, each year is the repetition of a theme or two in so many of the Show Gardens. The Chelsea Flower Show is the pinnacle of fashionable Garden Design and I suppose like any other fashions, there are trends. Like each season in clothing; this summer it’s emerald green and dots. But why and how do we always end up with a cluster of a certain variety of plant every year? If you know please email me!
Woodland & Water
As well as plant types, there were also some repetitive themes in several the gardens; namely Woodland planting and the use of Water as a feature. Many of the gardens had a focus on mental health, well being and ecology which it seems creatively; leads to woodlands and water. I must say it does make some sense, even writing these words down makes one’s imagination go to a calm woodland oasis with a trickling brook, passing through a shaded glade, as you sit on a mossy knoll… see you’re feeling more relaxed already! Perhaps these elements take us back to a more atavistic relationship with the outdoors
I’ve just started a rather wonderful project in Beckenham, where a new home has been built on a parcel of land which is on a flood plain and woodland. Don’t worry the drainage is in and the fully mature trees are intact. Even though it’s been a building site for 18 months and is in an urban location, it still has a very tranquil feel, with the Beck stream at the bottom of the garden. I must say I was drinking in all the woodland inspiration at the show! Shade loving plants like ferns, foxgloves, Actea and Trilliums. Damp loving Trollius, Astilbes, Equstiums and Iris. I plan to use these liberally in this project!
WEEDS, WOODLAND & WATER all in One
In Mark Gregory’s Yorkshire Canal Garden weeds, woodland and water had completely converge. It was basically a weed patch beside a canal lock with some cottage garden flowers added around the lock keeper’s cottage. It even had pond weed growing from the lock gates and nettles (a first time for Chelsea perhaps?) although I am told you can now order these from Ocado to make soup with!
Recipe for Tranquility
Visually many of the gardens couldn’t have been more different; The Resilience Garden, The M&G Garden, The Yorkshire Canal Lock, RHS Duchess of Cambridge Garden, The Green Fingers Charity Garden just to name a few. However, when one distills down the elements woodland planting, use of natives and water all featured. So, if you want your garden to feel more tranquil there’s your recipe card.
I always enjoy The Chelsea Flower Show; yes, it’s too crowded and the coffees are at Scandi prices, but I always come away inspired, feeling happy and excited. The fact it’s just off the Kings Road and I was able to buy an emerald silk tee afterwards is double bubble!
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